Irreplaceable

There it was. It flashed across the bottom of my screen with the familiar yellow tag. Thursday the 11th of June 2009 would be a day I would never forget.  These are the type of moves that sake the very foundations on which football is built. Where are they getting the money? How will he fit into the style of play? Will he settle in the area? But enough about Scott Dann’s thrilling £4 million switch to Birmingham from Coventry. Cristiano Ronaldo somehow managed to make the most predicable transfer of the 21st century drag out for over 2 years. His ambiguous comments about Madrid, claiming he is ‘happy at Manchester United’, questioning his manager’s tactics were just a few of the ploys he used to make himself even more desirable for Real Madrid. Did he even utter a word to thanks the club and manager that over the last 6 years made him the biggest name in football? Sure why would he?

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”It’s time to look forward and £80 million is quite a sum of money. This deal is historic. It’s flattering when two of the top teams in the world want you to play for them.” Someone should really tell this chap that self praise is no praise. While he seemingly reluctantly managed to give Manchester United a veiled compliment, he only did so whilst giving himself yet another pat on the back. Alex Ferguson took an unbelievable chance when signing a then 18 year old Ronaldo for £12.24 million. This was just 2 years after spending £28.1 million on Juan Sebastian Veron, who despite his awesome talents failed miserably at Old Trafford. Whilst he clawed back £16million from Chelsea for the Argentine, spending such an amount on the most unpolished of diamonds was a huge risk. A risk that on the pitch and financially has been played back many times over. But not in gratitude, or respect. One even doubts if Ronaldo believes he has anything to thank Ferguson for.

Manchester United indulged the ‘winger’ over the last few seasons, and for the most part the results have been spectacular. He has scored 68 goals in the last 2 years. All sorts of goals. Free kicks, tap-ins, towering headers, and long range shots. With both left and right foot. His heading ability is astounding. The power and accuracy that he generates must put him in line with the best headers of a ball around. He is a unique player, and essentially impossible to replace. Fleet Street have been listing out the names of Ribery, Benzema, Villa, Agureo, Silva, E’too and most mischiefly Torres as potential replacements for him. But whoever comes in, there will be a massive over haul to the style of play.

Antonio Valencia’s move seems to be a certainty. Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has been publicly inviting bids for the Ecuadorian. Valencia possesses acceleration and pace that terrifies defenders, but has scored just 7 goals in 3 seasons since coming to England. The £17 million price tag seems excessive, however rumours persist that this deal has been done since earlier in the year. Which begs the question, why was Valencia allowed to play against Manchester United in a vital game towards the end of last season? He burst through the defence in the 3rd minute, one on one with the keeper, but chipped it tamely wide. Would you be willing to harm your future employers, and in effect harm your own career? What if Ronaldo had faced Real Madrid in season just passed? Would he have been giving 100%?

Many are saying that this is the time for Wayne Rooney to step up and become the main man now his onetime nemesis is gone. Rooney has seen himself sacrificed in many big games to play as a wide player in the last few years. A wide player who offers protection to his full back, a concept completely alien to Ronaldo. His constant self sacrifice for the team has to be admired. But one feels that if say Benzema or Villa end up at United, the chances are Rooney would again be made play out of position. He occupies his favoured second striker role for England, and has had great success with 10 goals in his last 8 games for his country. Fabio Capello claims his form is due to standing closer to the goal. Simple, but it seems to be working. The Scouser could find himself the victim of his one versatility at club level. Maybe he should have a chat with his mate Steven Gerrard and see how he managed to get his club manager to play him where he feels is his best position.

With Carlos Tevez’s future unclear, Dimitar Berbatov seems certain to stay. Despite an underwhelming season by his standards, Berbatov should have reason to feel a bit miffed by his exclusion towards the end of the season. While Tevez moaned constantly and publicly humiliated the board, Berbatov kept his mouth shout, only to say that he doesn’t want to be remembered for his goals. There is a lot more to him than that.

But too often in the last year, all three of Berbatov, Tevez and Rooney have had their toes trod on by their manager’s insistance on humouring Ronaldo. He decided he would not mind a crack at been a centre forward for a while. This led to two £30 million centre forwards sitting on the bench in Rome recently, with another £30 million forward playing outside left. With Ronnie gone, these three, (or more than likely two) while have more responsibility to get goals. This is what is irreplaceable about Ronaldo.

How many other players would still end up with 26 goals in a season when he had more interest in scoring with Paris Hilton than he did for his club? He showed glimpses of his outstanding talent with superb goals against Porto and Arsenal in the Champions League. Goals from nothing. One from 40 yards. The other 9 seconds after an Arsenal corner. His double against Aston Villa, in a game where his only meaningful contributions ended in goals, set up the stage for Macheda to become Facebook’s must popular user for a few days. I can only see Manchester United been a weaker side without his presence.

Another thing that we will find hard is to find someone to replace him as a figure of hate in the league. His was mutually disliked by almost every supporter in the league. His pouting, diving, play acting, goading of opponents, his arrogance eventually got too much for us. Nani made a claim to be Ronaldo’s replacement the other day. Maybe this is what he meant, because he certainly will not be replacing him on the pitch. Nobody will.

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